Friday, June 12, 2015
Not a Very P.C. Thing to Say: How the language police are perverting liberalism
The article below is from "liberal" Jonathan Chait, probably best known for his rather deranged utterance, "I hate President George W. Bush. There, I said it". Knowing Chait's form, I did not bother to read the article at the time it came out but merely put up in reply another article that delved into the causes of PC. Now that I read Chait's article, however, I think it is pretty good. It seems that, as Leftists have often done, he is drifting rightwards with age. He might even one day come to see GWB as the sentimental Christian gentleman that he is! OK. There's a limit
Around 2 a.m. on December 12, four students approached the apartment of Omar Mahmood, a Muslim student at the University of Michigan, who had recently published a column in a school newspaper about his perspective as a minority on campus. The students, who were recorded on a building surveillance camera wearing baggy hooded sweatshirts to hide their identity, littered Mahmood’s doorway with copies of his column, scrawled with messages like “You scum embarrass us,” “Shut the fuck up,” and “DO YOU EVEN GO HERE?! LEAVE!!” They posted a picture of a demon and splattered eggs.
This might appear to be the sort of episode that would stoke the moral conscience of students on a progressive campus like Ann Arbor, and it was quickly agreed that an act of biased intimidation had taken place. But Mahmood was widely seen as the perpetrator rather than the victim. His column, published in the school’s conservative newspaper, had spoofed the culture of taking offense that pervades the campus. Mahmood satirically pretended to denounce “a white cis-gendered hetero upper-class man” who offered to help him up when he slipped, leading him to denounce “our barbaric attitude toward people of left-handydnyss.” The gentle tone of his mockery was closer to Charlie Brown than to Charlie Hebdo.
The Michigan Daily, where Mahmood also worked as a columnist and film critic, objected to the placement of his column in the conservative paper but hardly wanted his satirical column in its own pages. Mahmood later said that he was told by the editor that his column had created a “hostile environment,” in which at least one Daily staffer felt threatened, and that he must write a letter of apology to the staff. When he refused, the Daily fired him, and the subsequent vandalism of his apartment served to confirm his status as thought-criminal.
The episode would not have shocked anybody familiar with the campus scene from two decades earlier. In 1992, an episode along somewhat analogous lines took place, also in Ann Arbor. In this case, the offending party was the feminist videographer Carol Jacobsen, who had produced an exhibition documenting the lives of sex workers. The exhibition’s subjects presented their profession as a form of self-empowerment, a position that ran headlong against the theories of Catharine MacKinnon, a law professor at the university who had gained national renown for her radical feminist critique of the First Amendment as a tool of male privilege. MacKinnon’s beliefs nestled closely with an academic movement that was then being described, by its advocates as well as its critics, as “political correctness.” Michigan had already responded to the demands of pro-p.c. activists by imposing a campuswide speech code purporting to restrict all manner of discriminatory speech, only for it to be struck down as a First Amendment violation in federal court.
In Ann Arbor, MacKinnon had attracted a loyal following of students, many of whom copied her method of argument. The pro-MacKinnon students, upset over the display of pornographic video clips, descended upon Jacobsen’s exhibit and confiscated a videotape. There were speakers visiting campus for a conference on prostitution, and the video posed “a threat to their safety,” the students insisted.
This was the same inversion of victim and victimizer at work last December. In both cases, the threat was deemed not the angry mobs out to crush opposing ideas, but the ideas themselves. The theory animating both attacks turns out to be a durable one, with deep roots in the political left.
The recent mass murder of the staff members of Charlie Hebdo in Paris was met with immediate and unreserved fury and grief across the full range of the American political system. But while outrage at the violent act briefly united our generally quarrelsome political culture, the quarreling quickly resumed over deeper fissures. Were the slain satirists martyrs at the hands of religious fanaticism, or bullying spokesmen of privilege? Can the offensiveness of an idea be determined objectively, or only by recourse to the identity of the person taking offense? On Twitter, “Je Suis Charlie,” a slogan heralding free speech, was briefly one of the most popular news hashtags in history. But soon came the reactions (“Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie”) from those on the left accusing the newspaper of racism and those on the right identifying the cartoons as hate speech. Many media companies, including the New York Times, have declined to publish the cartoons the terrorists deemed offensive, a stance that has attracted strident criticism from some readers. These sudden, dramatic expressions of anguish against insensitivity and oversensitivity come at a moment when large segments of American culture have convulsed into censoriousness.
After political correctness burst onto the academic scene in the late ’80s and early ’90s, it went into a long remission. Now it has returned. Some of its expressions have a familiar tint, like the protesting of even mildly controversial speakers on college campuses. You may remember when 6,000 people at the University of California–Berkeley signed a petition last year to stop a commencement address by Bill Maher, who has criticized Islam (along with nearly all the other major world religions). Or when protesters at Smith College demanded the cancellation of a commencement address by Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, blaming the organization for “imperialist and patriarchal systems that oppress and abuse women worldwide.” Also last year, Rutgers protesters scared away Condoleezza Rice; others at Brandeis blocked Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a women’s-rights champion who is also a staunch critic of Islam; and those at Haverford successfully protested former Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau, who was disqualified by an episode in which the school’s police used force against Occupy protesters.
At a growing number of campuses, professors now attach “trigger warnings” to texts that may upset students, and there is a campaign to eradicate “microaggressions,” or small social slights that might cause searing trauma. These newly fashionable terms merely repackage a central tenet of the first p.c. movement: that people should be expected to treat even faintly unpleasant ideas or behaviors as full-scale offenses. Stanford recently canceled a performance of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson after protests by Native American students. UCLA students staged a sit-in to protest microaggressions such as when a professor corrected a student’s decision to spell the word indigenous with an uppercase I — one example of many “perceived grammatical choices that in actuality reflect ideologies.” A theater group at Mount Holyoke College recently announced it would no longer put on The Vagina Monologues in part because the material excludes women without vaginas. These sorts of episodes now hardly even qualify as exceptional.
Trigger warnings aren’t much help in actually overcoming trauma — an analysis by the Institute of Medicine has found that the best approach is controlled exposure to it, and experts say avoidance can reinforce suffering. Indeed, one professor at a prestigious university told me that, just in the last few years, she has noticed a dramatic upsurge in her students’ sensitivity toward even the mildest social or ideological slights; she and her fellow faculty members are terrified of facing accusations of triggering trauma — or, more consequentially, violating her school’s new sexual-harassment policy — merely by carrying out the traditional academic work of intellectual exploration. “This is an environment of fear, believe it or not,” she told me by way of explaining her request for anonymity. It reminds her of the previous outbreak of political correctness — “Every other day I say to my friends, ‘How did we get back to 1991?’ ”
But it would be a mistake to categorize today’s p.c. culture as only an academic phenomenon. Political correctness is a style of politics in which the more radical members of the left attempt to regulate political discourse by defining opposing views as bigoted and illegitimate. Two decades ago, the only communities where the left could exert such hegemonic control lay within academia, which gave it an influence on intellectual life far out of proportion to its numeric size. Today’s political correctness flourishes most consequentially on social media, where it enjoys a frisson of cool and vast new cultural reach. And since social media is also now the milieu that hosts most political debate, the new p.c. has attained an influence over mainstream journalism and commentary beyond that of the old.
It also makes money. Every media company knows that stories about race and gender bias draw huge audiences, making identity politics a reliable profit center in a media industry beset by insecurity. A year ago, for instance, a photographer compiled images of Fordham students displaying signs recounting “an instance of racial microaggression they have faced.” The stories ranged from uncomfortable (“No, where are you really from?”) to relatively innocuous (“ ‘Can you read this?’ He showed me a Japanese character on his phone”). BuzzFeed published part of her project, and it has since received more than 2 million views. This is not an anomaly.
In a short period of time, the p.c. movement has assumed a towering presence in the psychic space of politically active people in general and the left in particular. “All over social media, there dwell armies of unpaid but widely read commentators, ready to launch hashtag campaigns and circulate Change.org petitions in response to the slightest of identity-politics missteps,” Rebecca Traister wrote recently in The New Republic.
Two and a half years ago, Hanna Rosin, a liberal journalist and longtime friend, wrote a book called The End of Men, which argued that a confluence of social and economic changes left women in a better position going forward than men, who were struggling to adapt to a new postindustrial order. Rosin, a self-identified feminist, has found herself unexpectedly assailed by feminist critics, who found her message of long-term female empowerment complacent and insufficiently concerned with the continuing reality of sexism. One Twitter hashtag, “#RIPpatriarchy,” became a label for critics to lampoon her thesis. Every new continuing demonstration of gender discrimination — a survey showing Americans still prefer male bosses; a person noticing a man on the subway occupying a seat and a half — would be tweeted out along with a mocking #RIPpatriarchy.
Her response since then has been to avoid committing a provocation, especially on Twitter. “If you tweet something straightforwardly feminist, you immediately get a wave of love and favorites, but if you tweet something in a cranky feminist mode then the opposite happens,” she told me. “The price is too high; you feel like there might be banishment waiting for you.” Social media, where swarms of jeering critics can materialize in an instant, paradoxically creates this feeling of isolation. “You do immediately get the sense that it’s one against millions, even though it’s not.” Subjects of these massed attacks often describe an impulse to withdraw.
Political correctness is a term whose meaning has been gradually diluted since it became a flashpoint 25 years ago. People use the phrase to describe politeness (perhaps to excess), or evasion of hard truths, or (as a term of abuse by conservatives) liberalism in general. The confusion has made it more attractive to liberals, who share the goal of combating race and gender bias.
But political correctness is not a rigorous commitment to social equality so much as a system of left-wing ideological repression. Not only is it not a form of liberalism; it is antithetical to liberalism. Indeed, its most frequent victims turn out to be liberals themselves.
I am white and male, a fact that is certainly worth bearing in mind. I was also a student at the University of Michigan during the Jacobsen incident, and was attacked for writing an article for the campus paper defending the exhibit. If you consider this background and demographic information the very essence of my point of view, then there’s not much point in reading any further. But this pointlessness is exactly the point: Political correctness makes debate irrelevant and frequently impossible.
Under p.c. culture, the same idea can be expressed identically by two people but received differently depending on the race and sex of the individuals doing the expressing. This has led to elaborate norms and terminology within certain communities on the left. For instance, “mansplaining,” a concept popularized in 2008 by Rebecca Solnit, who described the tendency of men to patronizingly hold forth to women on subjects the woman knows better — in Solnit’s case, the man in question mansplained her own book to her. The fast popularization of the term speaks to how exasperating the phenomenon can be, and mansplaining has, at times, proved useful in identifying discrimination embedded in everyday rudeness. But it has now grown into an all-purpose term of abuse that can be used to discredit any argument by any man. (MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry once disdainfully called White House press secretary Jay Carney’s defense of the relative pay of men and women in the administration “mansplaining,” even though the question he responded to was posed by a male.) Mansplaining has since given rise to “whitesplaining” and “straightsplaining.” The phrase “solidarity is for white women,” used in a popular hashtag, broadly signifies any criticism of white feminists by nonwhite ones.
If a person who is accused of bias attempts to defend his intentions, he merely compounds his own guilt. (Here one might find oneself accused of man/white/straightsplaining.) It is likewise taboo to request that the accusation be rendered in a less hostile manner. This is called “tone policing.” If you are accused of bias, or “called out,” reflection and apology are the only acceptable response — to dispute a call-out only makes it worse. There is no allowance in p.c. culture for the possibility that the accusation may be erroneous. A white person or a man can achieve the status of “ally,” however, if he follows the rules of p.c. dialogue. A community, virtual or real, that adheres to the rules is deemed “safe.” The extensive terminology plays a crucial role, locking in shared ideological assumptions that make meaningful disagreement impossible.
Nearly every time I have mentioned the subject of p.c. to a female writer I know, she has told me about Binders Full of Women Writers, an invitation-only Facebook group started last year for women authors. The name came from Mitt Romney’s awkwardly phrased debate boast that as Massachusetts governor he had solicited names of female candidates for high-level posts, and became a form of viral mockery. Binders was created to give women writers a “laid-back” and “no-pressure” environment for conversation and professional networking. It was an attempt to alleviate the systemic underrepresentation of women in just about every aspect of American journalism and literature, and many members initially greeted the group as a welcome and even exhilarating source of social comfort and professional opportunity. “Suddenly you had the most powerful women in journalism and media all on the same page,” one former member, a liberal journalist in her 30s, recalls.
Binders, however, soon found itself frequently distracted by bitter identity-politics recriminations, endlessly litigating the fraught requirements of p.c. discourse. “This was the first time I had felt this new kind of militancy,” says the same member, who requested anonymity for fear that her opinions would make her employer uncomfortable. Another sent me excerpts of the types of discussions that can make the group a kind of virtual mental prison.
On July 10, for instance, one member in Los Angeles started a conversation urging all participants to practice higher levels of racial awareness. “Without calling anyone out specifically, I’m going to note that if you’re discussing a contentious thread, and shooting the breeze … take a look at the faces in the user icons in that discussion,” she wrote. “Binders is pretty diverse, but if you’re not seeing many WOC/non-binary POC in your discussion, it’s quite possible that there are problematic assumptions being stated without being challenged.” (“POC” stands for “people of color.” “WOC” means “women of color.” “Non-binary” describes people who are either transgender or identify as a gender other than traditionally male or female.)
Two members responded lightly, one suggesting that such “call-outs” be addressed in private conversation and another joking that she was a “gluten free Jewish WWC” — or Woman Without Color. This set off more jokes and a vicious backlash. “It seems appropriate to hijack my suggestion with jokes. I see,” the Los Angeles member replied. “Apparently whatever WOC have to say is good for snark and jokes,” wrote another. Others continued: “The level of belittling, derailing, crappy jokes, and all around insensitivity here is astounding and also makes me feel very unsafe in this Big Binder.” “It is literally fucking insane. I am appalled and embarrassed.”
The suggestion that a call-out be communicated privately met with even deeper rage. A poet in Texas: “I’m not about to private message folks who have problematic racist, transphobic, anti-immigrant, and/or sexist language.” The L.A. member: “Because when POC speak on these conversations with snark and upset, we get Tone Argumented at, and I don’t really want to deal with the potential harm to me and mine.” Another writer: “You see people suggesting that PMs are a better way to handle racism? That’s telling us we are too vocal and we should pipe down.” A white Toronto member, sensing the group had dramatically underreacted, moved to rectify the situation:
“JESUS FUCK, LIKE SERIOUSLY FUCK, I SEE MORE WHITE BINDERS POLICING WOC AND DEMANDING TO BE EDUCATED/UNEDUCATED AS IF IT’S A FUCKING NOBLE MISSION RATHER THAN I DUNNO SPEND TIME SHUTTING DOWN AND SHITTING ON RACIST DOUCHE CANOE BEHAVIOUR; WHAT ARE YOU GAINING BY THIS? WHAT ARE YOU DETRACTING? YOU NEED SCREENCAPS OF BURNING CROSSES TO BELIEVE RACIST SHIT IS HAPPENING? THIS THREAD IS PAINFUL. HUGS TO ALL THE WOC DURING THIS THREAD”
Every free society, facing the challenge of balancing freedom of expression against other values such as societal cohesion and tolerance, creates its own imperfect solution. France’s is especially convoluted and difficult to parse: It allows for satire and even blasphemy (like cartoons that run in Charlie Hebdo) but not for speech that incites violence toward individuals (like provocative comments made by the comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala). This may appear to Americans as a distinction without a difference, but our distinctions are also confused, as is our way of talking about free speech as it overlaps with our politics.
The right wing in the United States is unusually strong compared with other industrialized democracies, and it has spent two generations turning liberal into a feared buzzword with radical connotations. This long propaganda campaign has implanted the misperception — not only among conservatives but even many liberals — that liberals and “the left” stand for the same things.
It is true that liberals and leftists both want to make society more economically and socially egalitarian. But liberals still hold to the classic Enlightenment political tradition that cherishes individuals rights, freedom of expression, and the protection of a kind of free political marketplace. (So, for that matter, do most conservatives.)
The Marxist left has always dismissed liberalism’s commitment to protecting the rights of its political opponents — you know, the old line often misattributed to Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it” — as hopelessly naïve. If you maintain equal political rights for the oppressive capitalists and their proletarian victims, this will simply keep in place society’s unequal power relations. Why respect the rights of the class whose power you’re trying to smash? And so, according to Marxist thinking, your political rights depend entirely on what class you belong to.
The modern far left has borrowed the Marxist critique of liberalism and substituted race and gender identities for economic ones. “The liberal view,” wrote MacKinnon 30 years ago, “is that abstract categories — like speech or equality — define systems. Every time you strengthen free speech in one place, you strengthen it everywhere. Strengthening the free speech of the Klan strengthens the free speech of Blacks.” She deemed this nonsensical: “It equates substantive powerlessness with substantive power and calls treating these the same, ‘equality.’ ”
Political correctness appeals to liberals because it claims to represent a more authentic and strident opposition to their shared enemy of race and gender bias. And of course liberals are correct not only to oppose racism and sexism but to grasp (in a way conservatives generally do not) that these biases cast a nefarious and continuing shadow over nearly every facet of American life. Since race and gender biases are embedded in our social and familial habits, our economic patterns, and even our subconscious minds, they need to be fought with some level of consciousness. The mere absence of overt discrimination will not do.
Liberals believe (or ought to believe) that social progress can continue while we maintain our traditional ideal of a free political marketplace where we can reason together as individuals. Political correctness challenges that bedrock liberal ideal. While politically less threatening than conservatism (the far right still commands far more power in American life), the p.c. left is actually more philosophically threatening. It is an undemocratic creed.
Bettina Aptheker, a professor of feminist studies at the University of California–Santa Cruz, recently wrote an essay commemorating the Berkeley Free Speech movement, in which she participated as a student in 1964. She now expressed a newfound skepticism in the merits of free speech. “Freedom of speech is a constitutional guarantee, but who gets to exercise it without the chilling restraints of censure depends very much on one’s location in the political and social cartography,” she wrote. “We [Free Speech movement] veterans … were too young and inexperienced in 1964 to know this, but we do now, and we speak with a new awareness, a new consciousness, and a new urgency that the wisdom of a true freedom is inexorably tied to who exercises power and for what ends.”
These ideas have more than theoretical power. Last March at University of California–Santa Barbara, in, ironically, a “free-speech zone,” a 16-year-old anti-abortion protester named Thrin Short and her 21-year-old sister Joan displayed a sign arrayed with graphic images of aborted fetuses. They caught the attention of Mireille Miller-Young, a professor of feminist studies. Miller-Young, angered by the sign, demanded that they take it down. When they refused, Miller-Young snatched the sign, took it back to her office to destroy it, and shoved one of the Short sisters on the way.
Speaking to police after the altercation, Miller-Young told them that the images of the fetuses had “triggered” her and violated her “personal right to go to work and not be in harm.” A Facebook group called “UCSB Microaggressions” declared themselves “in solidarity” with Miller-Young and urged the campus “to provide as much support as possible.”
By the prevailing standards of the American criminal-justice system, Miller-Young had engaged in vandalism, battery, and robbery. By the logic of the p.c. movement, she was the victim of a trigger and had acted in the righteous cause of social justice. Her colleagues across the country wrote letters to the sentencing judge pleading for leniency. Jennifer Morgan, an NYU professor, blamed the anti-abortion protesters for instigating the confrontation through their exercise of free speech. “Miller-Young’s actions should be mitigated both by her history as an educator as well as by her conviction that the [anti-abortion] images were an assault on her students,” Morgan wrote. Again, the mere expression of opposing ideas, in the form of a poster, is presented as a threatening act.
The website The Feminist Wire mounted an even more rousing defense of Miller-Young’s behavior. The whole idea that the professor committed a crime by stealing a sign and shoving away its owner turns out to be an ideological construct. “The ease with which privileged white, and particularly young white gender and sexually normative appearing women, make claims to ‘victimhood’ and ‘violation of property,’ is not a neutral move,” its authors argued. It concluded, “We issue a radical call for accountability to questions of history, representation, and the racialized gendering of tropes of ‘culpability’ and ‘innocence’ when considering Dr. Miller-Young’s case.”
These are extreme ideas, but they are neither isolated nor marginal. A widely cited column by a Harvard Crimson editorial writer last year demanded an end to academic freedom if freedom extended to objectionable ideas. “If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism,” asked the author, “why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of ‘academic freedom’?” After the Nation’s Michelle Goldberg denounced a “growing left-wing tendency toward censoriousness and hair-trigger offense,” Rutgers professor Brittney Cooper replied in Salon: “The demand to be reasonable is a disingenuous demand. Black folks have been reasoning with white people forever. Racism is unreasonable, and that means reason has limited currency in the fight against it.”
The most probable cause of death of the first political-correctness movement was the 1992 presidential election. That event mobilized left-of-center politics around national issues like health care and the economy, and away from the introspective suppression of dissent within the academy. Bill Clinton’s campaign frontally attacked left-wing racial politics, famously using inflammatory comments by Sister Souljah to distance him from Jesse Jackson. Barbara Jordan, the first black woman from a southern state elected to the House of Representatives, attacked political correctness in her keynote speech. (“We honor cultural identity. We always have; we always will. But separatism is not allowed. Separatism is not the American way. We must not allow ideas like political correctness to divide us and cause us to reverse hard-won achievements in human rights and civil rights.”)
Yet it is possible to imagine that, as the next Clinton presidential campaign gets under way, p.c. culture may not dissolve so easily. The internet has shrunk the distance between p.c. culture and mainstream liberal politics, and the two are now hopelessly entangled. During the 2008 primary contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the modern politics of grievance had already begun to play out, as each side’s supporters patrolled the other for any comment that might indicate gender or racial bias. It dissipated in the general election, but that was partly because Obama’s supporters worried about whether America really was ready to accept its first president who was not a white male. Clinton enters the 2016 race in a much stronger position than any other candidate, and her supporters may find it irresistible to amplify p.c. culture’s habit of interrogating the hidden gender biases in every word and gesture against their side.
Or maybe not. The p.c. style of politics has one serious, possibly fatal drawback: It is exhausting. Claims of victimhood that are useful within the left-wing subculture may alienate much of America. The movement’s dour puritanism can move people to outrage, but it may prove ill suited to the hopeful mood required of mass politics. Nor does it bode well for the movement’s longevity that many of its allies are worn out. “It seems to me now that the public face of social liberalism has ceased to seem positive, joyful, human, and freeing,” confessed the progressive writer Freddie deBoer. “There are so many ways to step on a land mine now, so many terms that have become forbidden, so many attitudes that will get you cast out if you even appear to hold them. I’m far from alone in feeling that it’s typically not worth it to engage, given the risks.” Goldberg wrote recently about people “who feel emotionally savaged by their involvement in [online feminism] — not because of sexist trolls, but because of the slashing righteousness of other feminists.” Former Feministing editor Samhita Mukhopadhyay told her, “Everyone is so scared to speak right now.”
That the new political correctness has bludgeoned even many of its own supporters into despondent silence is a triumph, but one of limited use. Politics in a democracy is still based on getting people to agree with you, not making them afraid to disagree. The historical record of political movements that sought to expand freedom for the oppressed by eliminating it for their enemies is dismal. The historical record of American liberalism, which has extended social freedoms to blacks, Jews, gays, and women, is glorious. And that glory rests in its confidence in the ultimate power of reason, not coercion, to triumph.
Mark Steyn on the big Jenner celebration
In a not terribly long life, I have known well three transsexuals (as we used to say), and another three not so well. Not because I especially sought out their company, but just because I've spent a lot of my time around theatre and music and areas that attract those who feel "different". Two of those three friends I didn't know were transsexual until they were "outed", one very publicly - although with hindsight certain curious aspects of both their physiognomy and behavior suddenly made a lot more sense.
But that's the point: Even those far closer to them than I was weren't aware - because back then the object of having a "sex change" (also as we used to say) was to change from being a man to being a woman. There were still only two teams and you were simply crossing over to bat for the other side. The trans-life had little in common with "gay pride" - because the object wasn't to come out of the closet, but to blend into it so smoothly no one would know you hadn't always been there. Before their outing, the two ladies in question were more lady-ier than thou: both used to show up once a month with a box of Tampax discreetly poking out from the top of their handbags - even though, as we all understood in retrospect, they had no need of it. But they had chosen to live as women, and so they wished to be as other women. And they were mortified when they were exposed.
This was the conventional view as late as the Nineties, when Armistead Maupin's celebration of the gay life,"Tales Of The City", became must-see TV for sophisticated liberals on Britain's Channel 4 and America's PBS. The big plot point was the matriarch Mrs Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis) "revealing" her "secret" - that she was not born a woman.
To be sure, as the chromosomocentrists argue, one cannot, biologically, "change sex". But I'll skip that argument, because, as usual, social conservatives are fighting over ground the left has already scorched and moved on from for new conquests. I have no great objection to a grown man who "identifies" as a woman and wishes to live as one. Guys have been doing that, to one degree or another, throughout history, and all that's happened is that cosmetic surgery has caught up with their desires. If half the women in California can walk around with breast implants, I don't see why the chaps can't.
But the chromosomocentrists are missing the point. The left's saying, "Yeah, XY chromosomes, big deal. You're right, but so what? No one's saying she's a woman. We're saying she's a transwoman - a new, separate and way more glamorous category that's taking its seat at the American table and demanding public affirmation. This isn't your father's sex change. Changing from man to woman is so last century."
The coronation of Caitlyn is ultimately not about the right to choose which of the two old teams you want to play on. It's about creating a cool new team. The "T" was always the relatively sleepy end of LGBT, and didn't ostensibly have much in common with the other three-quarters of the acronym. The company it keeps only makes sense if the object of transitioning is not to "pass" but to create a new assertive identity group in and of itself.
So far it's going gangbusters. Hence, the congratulatory Tweets from both Barack and Michelle Obama, and the instant conferral of the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage - but also the immediate ruthless pronoun enforcement by The Washington Post and the Twitter-lynching of Tom Cruise's kid and Snoop Dogg merely for having the lèse-majesté to suggest that, on the one hand, war, poverty and over-fishing and, on the other, solar power for Africa might be more important than some Z-list reality-TV celeb showing off her new rack. (Michael E Mann, the celebrated Doctor Fraudpants lui-mème, would certainly agree with young Master Cruise and Mr Dogg that "climate change" ought to be our paramount concern. But, unlike them, he doesn't have the guts to Tweet that NOAA's adjustment of their figures is a far bigger story than Caitlyn's adjustment of hers.)
And then there's the Vanity Fair cover itself: Caitlyn unveiled in her 1950s cheesecake shot. She hasn't completed her "transition"; she's just at the beginning of it - and, as all the world knows, she still has the old wedding tackle. Apropos the discreet swell in the crotch of her Grace Kelly bathing suit, some wag said Caitlyn Jenner is the most prominent Republican ever to appear on the front of Vanity Fair cover. Be that as it may, we are being invited to admire her not as a woman but as a transwoman - and to accept, as perforce the creator of the now passé Vagina Monologues has been forced to do, that there is such a thing as a woman with a penis. Miss Jenner herself is unclear whether she'll go all the way, or whether, in her new identity, she'll have sex with women or men or both, with or without the meat and two veg.
The economic historian Deirdre McCloskey, who used to be the economic historian Donald McCloskey, wrote an account of her own experience in The Des Moines Register:
"My dean at the University of Iowa, Gary Fethke, said at first when I came out, in a little comedy act, "This is great for our affirmative action program: one less man, one more woman!" Gary, like me, is a free-market economist. So his next joke was, "Thank God! I thought you were going to tell me you were converting to socialism!"
In Caitlyn Jenner's case, she actually did convert to the Republican Party, which may yet prove an unfortunate complicating factor. But Dean Fethke's gentle jokes are a normal, human reaction to the situation - the G-rated version of what happened to another acquaintance of mine, a prodigiously talented arranger and composer called Angela Morley. You won't know her name, but if you watched TV in the Eighties you surely heard her music - on "Dallas", "Dynasty", "The Colbys", "Wonder Woman", "Falcon Crest", "Cagney & Lacey", and on and on.
Thirty years earlier, she'd been a household name in Britain, although not as "Angela Morley". Back then, she was Wally Stott, and the house conductor for the BBC's most popular radio comedy, "The Goons". It was the Prince of Wales' favorite show when he was a boy, and he can still do all the silly voices. A little of it goes a long way with me, but Wally Stott's music was very adroit. He was a very deft comical composer in those days: The tuba theme he wrote for the lugubrious comedian Tony Hancock on "Hancock's Half Hour" is ingenious: It says that character, which is what the best themes do.
The sex change happened in 1972, and shortly thereafter Angela moved to America. Indeed, it seemed less of a sex change than a total lifestyle upgrade, as thorough as the Cinderella transformation in the film she scored so beautifully, The Slipper And The Rose. You can't ask for a better name for a jobbing musician in northern England grubbing around for ten shillings a week with Bert Clegg's orchestra at the Empress Ballroom than stolid working-class "Wally Stott". Conversely, "Angela Morley" is perfumed with the heady swirl of Oscar and Emmy ceremonies and Hollywood parties with Larry Hagman and Henry Mancini.
It wasn't quite that instant a transformation. She was the conductor of the BBC Radio Orchestra at the time of her operation, and there was a lot of tittering about Wally losing his baton. The boys in the band weren't entirely sure what to make of it when Wally Stott conducted his last session and then Peter Knight filled in until their conductor returned in her new guise as Angela Morley. Studio musicians are among my favorite people but it has to be said they're not always the most sensitive. So things were a bit awkward when their old boss walked in and took the podium but this time with a stylish silk skirt swishing against his - er, her hosiery. Eventually, Stan Roderick, the BBC's splendid first trumpet, broke the silence. "Fancy a shag?" he asked.
She didn't, but the session proceeded smoothly thereafer. Angela Morley was a first-class musican, and happy in her new life - although one couldn't but notice with the onset of age that, as with most transsexuals, the unwanted mannishness lurking deep down keeps trying to re-emerge in one's features. Professor McCloskey writes:
"I couldn't at age 53 "become" a woman in genes or life history, no more than Jenner can at age 65. Yet I could and did present as a woman, and Iowans were mostly calm about it. I'm calm, too, now a church lady (Episcopalian, the Frozen Chosen), younger sister and daughter, at 72 still working, if you call the work I love "working." Gender change is a distinctly minority desire — maybe one in 200 or 300 born girls or boys".
At a certain basic level, Professor McCloskey understands that she is not a woman, but she chooses to live as one. She's talking the way Angela Morley talked - about wanting to "present as a woman" and carry on doing what you love, whether teaching history or conducting orchestras. But Caitlyn Jenner is instead "presenting" as a transwoman, and blazing a new trail in self-definition. Why she's doing it is obvious: she's got a reality-TV series, and she wants it to open big, and have people stick with her as she explores various options for her new sexuality with whatever genitalia she decides to go for. She is, in that sense, transitioning from a Jenner to a full-blown Kardashian. But the broader movement - the Big Gay enforcers - have signed on because of the opportunity it affords, to validate a glamorous, fashionable, expandable, elite, noisy, assertive identity-group category and further demolish the old ones.
Hence the backlash against those who step out of line. Tom Cruise's son? Oh, he totally lost it in a "hateful rant" of "off-color transphobic remarks":
"Don't get me wrong. Do what you feel like doing and don't let anyone stop you. But everyone is taking this way too seriously... There are so many more important things that should be talked about. "I'm totally supportive of people staying true to themselves and finding true happiness in whatever way they can," he continued. "There are just more things that we as a nation and as a planet should be talking about and working on."
As Evan Real responded for real:
"Geez, tell us how you really feel, Connor!.. Sorry Mr. Cruise, but what really needs to change is your attitude!"
This Evan Real wallah is the usual metrosexual pajama boy favored by today's media, but this is apparently how he really really really really feels!!! It's not enough to say "do what you feel like doing" and "I'm totally supportive of people finding true happiness": you have to accept that this is the most important and transformative event of our time. Why else would the President and First Lady be Tweeting their support? Screw climate change, you bigot!
Now imagine you're like the parents of that kid in British Columbia. You notice your Second Grader seems to prefer Barbie to GI Joe, and one day you caught him walking around in his big sister's princess slippers. And maybe it's just a phase, but the doctor and the school guidance counselor are all eager to get him transitioning. And deep down you're not really on board with it, but you remember with that Olympics winner who's something to do with the Kardashians how everyone jumped all over people who weren't celebratory, even Snoop Dogg, who's one mean muthaf**ker, but Big Gay still clubbed him to a pulp like he's some weedy easy-listening lounge act, even when he wanted to talk about green energy, which is like the most pressing, urgent, important subject ever...
Except for Caitlyn, and her "bravery".
It takes an awful lot to push back against that level of cultural enforcement.
What happened this week was a strange mix of Huxley and Orwell, Brave New World and 1984, hedonism and totalitarianism, sexual diversity and ruthless conformity in everything else - a stiletto heel stamping on a human face, forever.
Or until the mullahs take over.
Alveda King: Liberal Race Baiting Is Tired, Sagging and Outdated
For decades, the liberal camp has stirred up the emotions of the African American Community with reminders of our victimization from first slavery and then segregation and racism. Yet, in the midst of all our oppression, we have always managed to rise to the surface, and even ascend to the peaks of promise, stepping over the boulders of despair that would try to hold us back.
My grandfather, Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr. often quoted his mentor Dr. Benjamin E. Mays. During his lifetime, Dr. Mays was President of Morehouse College in Atlanta. Many of the men of our family, including Daddy AD King and Uncle ML King, like Granddaddy, are "Morehouse Men."
Dr. Mays would say: "No one can ride your back unless it is bent." Granddaddy always taught us to "stand up straight and walk tall because God is on our side."
When I hear Mrs. Senator Hillary Clinton or Mrs. Michelle Obama, or Al Sharpton, or other leading speakers stir up memories of racial unrest and oppression, even when they are pointing out the obvious current racial overtones and undertones that Blacks in America are still facing, I don't hear hope. They don't offer solutions, only more anger, pain and despair.
As a survivor of the 20th Century Race Wars, my back remains unbent, and I move forward for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all who were created equal in God's eyes.
In my book “KING RULES,” I write about the "Beloved Community" our legacy embraces. I write about Acts 17:26, where we discover that the human race is born of "one blood." So we are not even "separate races." This reminds us that what Uncle ML said is true: "We must all learn to live together as brothers [and sisters] or perish as fools."
Please, someone, remind speakers like Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Clinton that the answer to racial strife and confusion, in fact to all human issues, will always be love and nonviolent conflict resolution.
Kitchen table issues affect the rich and the poor alike. How will we feed our families, how will we educate our children, how will we manage successful career strategies, how will we improve our quality of life? It doesn't matter how much we are able to pay for these benefits. The American Dream is that everyone will have some form of satisfaction, free from fear of danger, poverty and harm.
We still have a dream, The American Dream.
Remember the Story of the Muslim Woman Denied a Can of Coke? It Might be a Hoax
It wouldn't be another hostile and lying Muslim, would it?
Last week, I expressed some exasperation with the idea that CNN was leading its website with unsubstantiated claims from a Muslim women that a United flight attendant had denied her an unopened can of Coke because she could potentially use the can as a weapon.
While the point of my post was to note that the only reason why such a minor incident made national news was to advance the bogus liberal narrative that America is beset with Islamophobia, some folks on Twitter called me out for questioning whether we were getting the whole story.
The breathless CNN report was based almost entirely on the woman’s social media post, yet the left side of the internet erupted as if the story were undeniable fact.
Well, thanks to Mark Hemingway at the Weekly Standard, we know there is at least one competing account. Here it is, from a person claiming to be a passenger on the same flight:
To be clear, I have no idea which account is closer to the truth, but I agree completely with Hemingway — the story was a “complete and total perversion of journalism.” As he notes, “[I]t is inexcusable to turn someone’s one-sided Facebook post into a national news story without making an effort to verify the details.” I suppose, however, when the left has a politically correct narrative to advance, the “facts” are just too good to check.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.